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LambdaCalculus
 
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Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension - OCS or AGA? Both!

by LambdaCalculus Sun Sep 17, 2017 9:30 am

Lately, I've been digging through the Amiga games library, trying out games I've either played on other platforms (especially DOS versions of many games!) or trying out games I haven't really played too much before or were dismissive of. One of these games I've been playing a lot, and wondering why I was so dismissive of it the first time around, is Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension, which was developed and released on the Amiga 500 by Gremlin Graphics initially in 1992, before being ported to other systems. An enhanced AGA version with more colorful backgrounds was released in 1993, and this version got a CD32 release soon after, with a new CD soundtrack to go with it.

amigacd32-crop-1708191140-02.png
The CD32 version's title screen


The story of Zool is rather straightforward: Zool is an intergalactic ninja gremlin who crashes into a strange world full of bizarre, surreal creatures, and must make his way through this world to find and defeat his nemesis, Krool. If he can pass this test, he will be the greatest ninja in the galaxy. Or something like that. I like to boil it down to, "Bizarre planetscapes, lots of goodies, go run fast and smack your way through baddies."

My first encounter with Zool was via the DOS version, which was a pretty straight port of the original Amiga version. It was a pretty decent port but rather basic, but controls were at least decent enough and it played well.
I next played the game on the Sega Genesis, but after revisiting that version, I've come to the conclusion that the Genesis version, while nice and fast, was too fast. Zool had far too much inertia and far too little friction, making the game feel like even Sonic the Hedgehog would ask to take the speed down a notch! I reckon a bad PAL to NTSC conversion is to blame, but I could be wrong about that! Anyone can feel free and chime in and correct me!

The basic gameplay is such: collect a quota of collectibles in each stage and make it to the end before time runs out. At the end of every world is a boss that Zool must fight; beat the boss and it's on to the next world. There are six worlds in most versions; the CD32 version has a seventh world exclusive to it. Difficulty settings affect both enemy speed and quota counts on collectibles; on easier settings, you need less collectibles, and more on higher ones. There are also powerups that can be collected that have various effects like a phantom clone that follows you and doubles your attack power, a high jump powerup that allows Zool to temporarily jump higher (userful for grabbing goodies), the requisite invincibility power, and a bomb power that can clear all on-screen baddies. Zool can take four hits before dying, but thankfully, health powerups are frequently dropped by enemies, so you're never in severe danger of dying constantly.

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World 1: Sweet World. The AGA editions have nicer backgrounds.


The graphics on the Amiga OCS version are fairly decent; there's good use of colors and sprites are nicely detailed with nice animations, but backgrounds are rather bare. It's understandable, as the Amiga 500 was the target machine, and there's only so much detail you can bash into 1MB of RAM. But what's there has lots of nice details: enemies will often burst into a little splash of goodies to collect, Zool has some nice detail, and the game's worlds effectively convey a sense of weirdness and cuteness. The music in the OCS release is quite good, but alas, like many other games of the era, you had to either go with music alone or sound effects. Sounds are also well done here, although Zool's death cry sounds kind of funny; almost like a squawking bird.

My only turnoff with the OCS release is that you can only use one joystick button, which is the attack button, and have to press up to jump. This makes certain tasks, like climbing walls, a massive pain, as you have to press up and away from the wall, then immediately press the joystick towards the wall to grab back onto it. This gets especially tough in areas where there are spikes on the walls, or baddies that scale them and get in your way. Be sure to find every single hidden 1-up you can, and collect those heart powerups every chance you get, because in the OCS release, you'll need every single one!

Unless, of course, you're playing the game on the Amiga CD32. Then that's where you can breathe a massive sigh of relief, because you have... MULTI-BUTTON SUPPORT! :D

amigacd32-full-1708242311-01.png
World 2: Music World. I love this world's background music!


And that brings me to another point: the Amiga 500 version of Zool is still a great game and worth playing, but it's the CD32 version that feels like it's the definitive version of the game.

The CD32 version is, in essence, the Amiga AGA version, with all of its graphics, but it ups the ante with an extra world, a really awesome CD soundtrack (courtesy of Neil Biggin), and the aforementioned multibutton support. Now with jump and fire on separate buttons, control and navigation is a breeze. Another aspect of the CD32 version I like, which I reckon is also on the disk-based AGA version, is the sense that the timing and movement have been tightened up considerably. Zool moves much more responsively, and there's a better feeling of speed and agility in this version. So in short, you can actually get quite far in this version with very little issue!

However, it shouldn't really be a major issue in the end. Zool is still a pretty damn fun game either way you look at it. I enjoyed it when I used to play the DOS version (and side note: I had to buy a new copy again because I missed it!), but now playing it on the CD32, I enjoy it much, much more. Zool is very much a defining Amiga game, and should be a part of any Amiga owner's library.

As a parting gift, here's the Sweet World track from the CD32 version for your enjoyment! :)
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LambdaCalculus
 
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Re: Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension - OCS or AGA? Both!

by LambdaCalculus Sun Sep 17, 2017 3:40 pm

For comparison's sake to the AGA screenshots above, here's a few shots from the OCS version as well:

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Amiga OCS title screen


amiga500-crop-1709171922-01.png
World 1: Sweet World (OCS version)


amiga500-crop-1709171936-01.png
World 2: Music World (OCS version)
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intric8
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Re: Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension - OCS or AGA? Both!

by intric8 Sun Sep 17, 2017 4:54 pm

Yeah, I need to get into this at some point, too. I grew up on Mario and Sonic and just never felt like computers ever really competed very strongly on platformer games. But that's just a dumb bias I need to get over. I know there are a TON of fans around this game. I should see what it's all about. Thanks for the reminder.

Little-known cool trivia: The Chupa Chups logo was designed by Salvador Dali, the surrealist painter. :)
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LambdaCalculus
 
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Re: Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension - OCS or AGA? Both!

by LambdaCalculus Sun Sep 17, 2017 5:08 pm

Leave it to someone like Salvador Dali to think of something so bizarre to do as to create a lollipop logo! :P
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